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Burned house condemned

Staff writer

Citing unsalvageable conditions and neglect, city council approved on Monday condemnation of a house at 321 W. Santa Fe St., which was gutted by a February fire. The cause of the fire is yet undetermined.

The house itself still carries many relics of inhabitance. Through its doors, which swing unlatched in the breeze, charred furniture sits where it would have before the house burned. A Jack-O’-Lantern floats among storage containers and furniture in the standing water in the basement.

The windows, which were all busted out to ventilate the blaze, remain unfixed, scorch marks all around their frames. A DirecTV satellite dish is affixed to the back of the house, where a porch awning is held up by wooden posts with Christmas lights spiraling down them. Beside the house, a large trampoline no one’s come back for stands unused, a jungle of weeds rising around it.

It’s uncertain whether the odors around the house are from mold inside or the county transfer station across the street. Across multiple senses, the house is a sad wreck.

Public safety officer Marty Frederickson said the basement of the house is a third full with water (as of before Monday’s rains) and is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Frederickson deemed the property, which isn’t locked, a hazard to the public. He recommended razing it as soon as possible.

City administrator Roger Holter said the city has made four attempts to get the property locked up by the owner or the insurance company, State Farm, and neither has been proactive in amending the situation.

Deputy state fire marshal Rose Rozmiarek said the case is still under open investigation, meaning the investigator, Chris Mercer of Marion, is still tracking down leads. The cause of the fire is listed as “undetermined.” This means it’s unknown whether the fire was accidental or incendiary. An incendiary fire is cause for arson charges if a suspect is identified.

A call to Mercer was unanswered and unreturned.

Owner Gina Schaefer has been difficult for the city to track down because the city doesn’t have a forwarding address for her, Holter said.

Council passed a resolution for immediate condemnation and removal in accordance with city code, costs of demolition will be assessed to Schaefer through a lien on the insurance claim, unless she presents a demolition plan herself before the razing process begins. The earliest date the property could be razed is July 22, Holter said.

Last modified July 8, 2015

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